Absolutely everything stems from the purpose of your website - selection of hosting, programming, graphic design, copywriting, internet marketing, autoresponder service, and e-commerce. So it's very important to establish the purpose of your business website first. The most common purposes for a business website are:
* A company brochure: explain to customers (or potential customers), suppliers and shareholders more about the business
* Product news releases: distribution of pricelists, product specifications & photos
* Information releases: downloadable brochures, documents, forms & marketing material
* Lead generation: allow customers to contact you directly via phone, fax, email or SMS.
* Sale generation: complete a transaction on the website (eg. Purchase a book, magazine subscription, etc.)
The above list is ordered from the most simple to the most complex website. Generally, if you want customers to buy your product or service via your website, your website will be more complex - including a shopping cart, secure payment gateway, customer record management, product/stock management and automated customer service. And generally, the more complex a website, the more time it will take to develop, and the more it will cost.
However, I recommend that if you're taking the time and effort to build your business website, you may as well build yourself something decent. So I always recommend business owners plan for a website that will generate fresh leads or sales.
The purpose of your business website should closely relate to your overall business plan. Too many businesses make the mistake of setting up a website and forgetting about it.
A well-planned, well-developed website can be a fundamental part of your business. Not only to present a professional image to your customers, but actually generate new business. And that means more sales!
So take a few hours to sit down and work out how your business website fits into the bigger picture.
* The more effort put into planning, the more successful the website is likely to be.
* Your business website will compete with many others for customers' attention. Professional presentation, design and functionality are essential. Money invested in good presentation is money well spent.
* A website and its objectives and capabilities must be a part of your overall business strategy.
* Always look for new ideas - look at other websites.
* Do not try and do it all at once. Develop your website in stages. Each stage should provide useful information and features for your customers. A staged development will also help to encourage repeat visits by customers.
* Ensure that your site is designed in a way that you can make changes to content yourself, from your own computer - avoid reliance on the web developer for day-to-day changes.
* Update website content regularly, to keep it fresh and interesting.
Once you have an overall strategy for your business website in place, the next thing to consider is the budget. How much are you going to spend? After all for most businesses, money does't grow on trees? at least last time I checked ;-)
TIP: If you already have a website and just need to find a hosting service, check out my recommendation at: http://www.1st-for-business-web-hosting.com/find.asp?i=6
Josh has been involved in web development since 1996. He now helps business owners get their own websites up and running with a free easy-to-understand guide, and 7-part e-course at http://www.1st-For-Businsess-Web-Hosting.com